Dear Members of the Skidmore Community,
Along with so many in our country and within the Skidmore community, I watched with dismay the hate-filled speech and threatening actions of the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who gathered this past weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia. That dismay turned to horror in witnessing news coverage of the resulting violence that took the life of one person, Heather D. Heyer, and injured many others. I also acknowledge the deaths of the two state troopers, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke M. M. Bates, who were monitoring the situation in Charlottesville.
These events reinforce the importance of our educational mission and the fundamental values we espouse: seeking first to understand; affirming the fundamental worth and dignity of all persons; and supporting responsible citizenship, democratic processes, and the peaceful resolution of differences. They also serve to remind us that the conflict between ideas of hate, bigotry, and exclusion, on the one hand, and love, tolerance, and inclusion, on the other, is not just abstract or theoretical. This conflict also plays out concretely both in our personal lives and in the collective social and political life of our nation.
Freedom of speech stands at the heart of our work as educators and in the political arena of any democratic nation. Upholding that freedom sometimes forces us to acknowledge the existence of views that not only are different from our own but that we find truly evil. We can uphold the right to affirm a particular point of view and, at the same time, we can vigorously critique it and hold those who embrace it accountable for doing so. Ideas do have consequences.
In an often-quoted statement, the Rev. Martin Luther King said that the "arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." As King showed through his leadership of the Civil Rights Movement, this process does not occur of itself. We all have a role in moving the moral universe we inhabit towards justice, and our actions help determine the speed at which this movement occurs. Let us rededicate ourselves to doing our part in accelerating this progress.
As we anticipate the start of our own new academic year, let us stand in solidarity with the members of the Charlottesville community, including those at the University of Virginia. At Skidmore, we will continue to create opportunities to engage with the issues that surfaced once again by the events of this past weekend. Let us also individually reach out to one another, and especially to our friends and colleagues who, through their social identities, legitimately feel personally targeted by the hate speech and hateful actions that were so dramatically in evidence. It is our collective responsibility to create, both on our campus and in the larger world beyond our borders, the kind of open, respectful, inclusive, and just society we so fervently seek.